Janet Jackson launches three-date stint at Gibson Amphitheatre with no frills, hits-heavy set
Janet Jackson hadn’t surfaced on-stage and the house lights had yet to fall over the Gibson Amphitheatre on Thursday night when pandemonium erupted in the audience.
Flanked by a bevy of bodyguards, Jackson’s mother, Katherine, and older brothers Jermaine and Randy strolled to their seats as a cheering audience set off a continuous stream of flashes from cameras and cellphones and started to swarm the famous family.
A closeby row began chanting “Michael! Michael! Michael!” with as many fans dressed in T-shirts emblazoned with the family’s departed king as they were in Janet branded tops.
For a family that’s had every tragedy and triumph documented in front of the public eye, it wasn’t surprising that family members would show up to support Janet on the first of three sold-out dates in Los Angeles on her "Number Ones: Up Close and Personal Tour" –- but the sighting (just one of a long string of celebs who dotted the audience, including cast members from her last films, “For Colored Girls” and “Why Did I Get Married,” and producer Babyface) was too much for fans as one girl within earshot squealed, “I can’t believe they are seating with us.”
With security forced to intervene and direct gawkers to their seats, Jackson emerged onstage in a white tank, jeans and military boots –- but not before playing two of her hits in tribute to the audience (fans from each city on the stint had the opportunity to vote on the selections).
Jackson, who was touring as a treat to her fans with material exclusively chosen from her double-disc “Number Ones” compilation (she hasn’t released an album in more than three years), ditched the glossy arena pomp – she has plenty of record-breaking treks under her belt –- for the more intimate Gibson Amphitheatre.
The 44-year-old provided a no-frills show that was light on costume changes (only three), void of flashy pyrotechnics and eye-popping scenery –- all the things associated with the Jackson brand. The show was, however, heavy on hits.
She placed the focus of her set squarely on showcasing her voice -– it should be noted that she sang live for the nearly two-hour show, a rarity in today’s pop music -- and the legendary complex footwork that marked her and brother Michael as pop royalty.
From smashes such as “Control,” “Scream,” “Escapade,” “All For You” and “Together Again” to more obscure hits "The Best Things in Life Are Free” and “Diamonds,” Jackson managed to offer nearly 30 of her 35 No. 1 singles to an audience who remained seated only during three video montages, one of which featured a reel of some of her acting roles.
In her first tour since her brother Michael’s 2009 death, MJ’s presence was felt, whether it was adding moves he perfected or paying tribute to him in pictures during “Together Again” –- where she became emotional and stopped singing, instead extending her hands up above as the crowd sang the words and watched a slide show of childhood pictures of the two. (Her family left prior to the tribute.)
Fans have been clamoring for Jackson to return to the stage after her brief 2008 "Rock Witchu Tour" was marred with hiccups including cancellations.
After tickets to Thursday’s show sold out in less than 10 minutes when they went on sale in January, Jackson added an additional performance for Friday -- which quickly sold out, as well. Jackson and Live Nation then added another show set for Saturday.
The 35-city tour (one for each of her 35 No. 1 hits) has also sold out multiple nights in New York, Toronto, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Atlantic City, N.J., as well as single nights in Atlanta and Santa Barbara.
For the trek, Jackson called on her fans to vote for the cities that would constitute the itinerary, and due to the overwhelming tickets sales -– a welcome problem for a veteran act like Jackson –- the tour was recently extended to include additional cities.
The next North American leg of the tour is being planned for the fall, after Jackson's upcoming run of spring and summer dates in Europe.
Set list from night one of Los Angeles stint:
The Pleasure Principle / Control / What Have You Done for Me Lately? / Feedback / You Want This / Alright / Miss You Much / Nasty / Nothing / Come Back to Me / Let’s Wait Awhile / Again / Escapade / Love Will Never Do (Without You) / When I Think of You / That’s the Way Love Goes / I Get So Lonely / Black Cat / If / Scream / Rhythm Nation
Encore: Diamonds / The Best Things in Life Are Free / Throb / Make Me / Together Again
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
Photo: Janet Jackson performs in Hong Kong on Feb. 14. Credit: Janet-Love.com